The actions of Oxy United for Black Liberation organizers and supporters — through their week-long occupation of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center and additional organizing efforts — have directed attention to the experiences of Occidental students of color and structural racism on campus. The 14 demands for equitable institutional change put forth by the group, as well as much of the blame for issues of racism on campus, have been directed at President Jonathan Veitch.
Then, on Nov. 30, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Calkins forwarded an email on behalf of President Emeritus John Slaughter, a figure who has been held up as Veitch’s foil throughout the course of the movement. Slaughter’s balanced and delicate words reminded the Occidental community that “while [Veitch] may be deserving of some criticism,” other administrators and faculty members are as well.
As was evident in the Nov. 17 email containing the administration’s response to the demands, the cooperation of many administrators — including the future Chief Diversity Officer, Chief of Campus Safety Victor Clay and Dean of the College Jorge González — was necessary to put forward a plan of action that would sufficiently address the demands. Other administrators, who are just as central to the campus’ operations, should also be implicated to ensure that the demands put forth are actually met in a timely manner.
Though Veitch is the college’s most high-profile representative, he does not have direct control over all facets of campus life, including Occidental’s curriculum. In encouraging a reevaluation of the Cultural Studies Program and the implementation of a Black Studies program, students should also hold accountable those directly dictating academic affairs. For example, the chair of the psychology department may be approached about the cancellation of the Intergroup Dialogue Program, an integral component of diversity education on this campus. Additionally, the chairs of all departments play a crucial role in hiring diverse faculty members for their major — and ultimately, the board of trustees has the final say in granting tenure.
As was seen from the Nov. 12 rally that kicked off the Oxy United movement, the organizers were expecting immediate action to be taken. Veitch’s response: he was open to conversations, but to make changes, he needed to consult other administrators. Although pressure on the president may have been beneficial in kickstarting dialogue, student protestors should now consider expanding accountability to faculty and other administrators.
Ultimately, the fight for diversity and equity is one to which all members of the Occidental community must be committed — the president, of course, but also the rest of the administration, faculty, staff and students. The entire institution is responsible for effecting sustainable change, not just one man.